I admire those who know from an early age exactly what they want to be when they grow up. Though urged to pursue art in college—a painter since age 12—I intentionally chose not to, concerned that doing so would deprive my painting of its joy. Instead, I leaned into my love of animals, enrolling at the University of Delaware as an animal science major.
The summer between high school and college, I sang in a European choir and band tour led by Gettysburg College Emeritus Music Prof. Robert Zellner, with Gettysburg students as section leaders. I fell in love with one of them in the Alps, leading to many weekend commutes to Gettysburg. I, of course, then fell in love with the Gettysburg community and transferred the following year. With animal science not an option, I chose biology as my major. It turned out to be as similar to animal science as horseshoes are to running shoes.
My first course was Reproductive Biology with Prof. Ralph Sorenson, a harsh reality check that A-level work elsewhere earned C grades at Gettysburg. The following January, during J-Term, I took a figure drawing course with Prof. Ingolf Qually, spending all day in the studio sketching—and, surprise, I earned an A. Then I went back to the labs, struggling to hold on to C’s.
I’m a firm believer God gives us signs. I suppose I wasn’t paying attention.
Following graduation, I studied for one year at the Lutheran seminary. My faith deepened, even as life pointed me elsewhere. Meanwhile, I continued to paint for pleasure. In 1995, I was offered my first painting commission of an antique orchard barn. I found myself in a pasture, sketchbook in hand, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, being paid to do something I truly enjoyed, and thought, “Oh, so this is what work can feel like!” I relocated to Cape Cod in 1997 to pursue an art career, drawn to the water and skies.
There have been times I worried I wasted my college years—perhaps I should have been an art major from the start. I now know the more circuitous route formed me into who I am today. As President Emeritus Charles Glassick said, the strength and joy of a liberal arts education is that it teaches one critical thinking skills, ever more adaptive to new ventures. And so it did.
I have so many Gettysburgians to thank. To name just a few, I thank Prof. Zellner for leading the music tour, the band member who introduced me to campus, Prof. Qually for encouraging my drawing skills, Emeritus Chemistry Prof. Alex Rowland for his patience as I struggled through organic chemistry so I could graduate, and Rev. Karl Mattson for introducing me to Christian mission work when I was invited to spend a night helping staff a Washington, D.C., homeless shelter.
That J-Term art class took place in the basement of Christ Chapel. My Lutheran faith, nurtured there as a member of the Chapel Choir, led me to a now 20-year gig as Minister of Music at Christ Lutheran Church in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Thank you also to Emeritus Music Prof. Dexter Weikel and Emeritus Music Prof. Michael Matsinko.
It’s been suggested the Battle of Gettysburg happened here because of a convergence of roads into town. For me, so many parts of my life began in Gettysburg, leading out in multiple directions through a variety of intriguing opportunities. No straight lines. Rather, a myriad of intricately interwoven threads of people and experiences contributed to being the artist, writer, and church musician I am today.
by Mimi Schlichter ’82